Here’s The Science Behind CBD Skin Care

Matt Weeks March 8, 2018 0 comments

This is what the current research has to say about the science behind CBD skin care products, and cannabis-based topicals.

In just the past decade we’ve learned that the healing ability of cannabinoids is far richer than anyone could have imagined. Cannabis has proved its medicinal value, from treating pain, to calming anxiety, and even killing cancer cells. And as research progresses, science is uncovering compounds in the cannabis plant and identifying what they can do. Cannabidiol (CBD) has captured the interest of both scientists and the public alike, for its ability to treat a wide range of conditions without the same psychoactive effects induced by THC. And as this cannabinoid has gained traction in the medical world, it has also become the darling of the cosmetic industry. In fact, CBD skin care has become a booming business.

How Does Cannabis Work Topically?

Just like within the body, our skin also contains cannabinoid receptors that are expressed on the surfaces of cells. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with these receptors to influence signals that are sent throughout the body.

Scientists are still at the cusp of understanding cannabinoids and the receptors they interact with. And there have only been a few studies so far investigating the effectiveness of cannabinoid therapy on the skin. But preliminary research is showing that cannabis could potentially help treat various skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. So far, CBD has shown promise.

CBD is a known anti-inflammatory, which is what makes this cannabinoid so intriguing for the skin care industry. Hard-to-treat skin disorders are commonly caused by inflammation, and CBD skin care may have the ability to target and alleviate these conditions. CBD also has an innate ability to penetrate the skin, due to its high-lipophilicity. What that means is CBD can easily dissolve in fats and oils, which act as carriers that escort the cannabinoid past the skin’s protective barrier.

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What The Research Suggests About Why CBD Works

When it comes to sensitive skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, harmful chemicals can cause flare-ups and further irritation. This is just one of the reasons why a non-toxic alternative — like CBD skin care — is so attractive to the beauty industry. And, as consumers have begun changing their preferences to more natural products, CBD has become a popular option. But what does science have to say about it?

A study published in La Clinica Terapeutica (2019) investigated the efficacy of CBD ointment on twenty human patients suffering from skin disorders. The results were promising, as researchers concluded that CBD ointment could alleviate inflammatory skin conditions. And without the presence of THC, it has a much higher safety profile.[1]Palmieri, B, et al. A Therapeutic Effect of Cbd-Enriched Ointment in Inflammatory Skin Diseases and Cutaneous Scars. La Clinica Terapeutica, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2019, … Continue reading

Another study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation (2014) concluded that CBD could be a potential treatment for acne.[2]Olah, Attila, et al. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, American Society for Clinical Investigation, Sept. 2014, … Continue reading

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In the study, CBD exhibited an anti-inflammatory effect on cultured human sebocytes. And recently, a study was published in Molecules (2019), in which scientists reviewed the existing cannabinoid skin care research to-date. They concluded that there are still questions that need answering. They also say cannabinoid skin care therapy could be a “powerful tool” in treating skin diseases.[3]Tath, Kinga Fanni, et al. Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the ‘C(Ut)Annabinoid’ System. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), MDPI, 6 Mar. 2019, … Continue reading

Is CBD Skin Care Safe?

Research into cannabinoid skin care is still fairly new. Though the results so far are encouraging, clinical trials are necessary. We know that dysregulation of cannabinoid signaling can lead to skin conditions that range in severity — which gives cannabis skin care therapy unique potential.

As we wait for more research into this growing industry, personal experimentation and observation could provide more answers on an individual level. Due to the recent legalization of CBD in the United States through the 2018 Farm Bill, topicals containing only CBD are now also legal. And CBD has a remarkably high safety profile. In fact, dermatologists have said that CBD is generally safe for use on human skin.

If a reaction occurs while using a CBD topical, such as an ointment, bath bomb, oil or cream, it is more likely that such a reaction was incurred by another ingredient other than CBD. That’s why it’s important to read the label when purchasing CBD skin care products. It is wise to pay attention to the other ingredients included in the product. But also the CBD skin care industry took off almost overnight. So all in all, exercise caution. Buy from reputable companies that make certifications and test results available.

But How Much CBD is in Skin Care Products?

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2017) analyzed CBD products sold online and assessed their actual CBD value. Researchers found that over sixty percent of those products did not contain the dosage of CBD advertised on their labels. However, there are ways in which consumers can verify a CBD product is legit. Check the label or the product’s website for evidence of third party testing. Cannabinoid topicals can also be made at home with a few simple ingredients, which can be tailored to individual needs.[4]Bonn-Miller, Marcel O. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA, American Medical Association, 7 Nov. 2017,


Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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